2005 Darwin

As Australia’s peak professional body for marine scientists from all disciplines and for over 60 years has promoted all aspects of marine science in Australia. AMSA operates with a membership network of individuals and corporate affiliates as a not-for-profit organisation.

AMSA2005 Darwin

AMSA2005 Darwin 10-13 July 2005


AMSA2005 – Marine Biodiversity, Biodiscovery and Biosecurity Discovering and Protecting our Oceans’ Bounty.Held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Darwin from 10-13 July 2005, over 120 papers and posters were presented in concurrent sessions over three full days, with more than 200 registrants from all around Australia. 


General Conference Program (pdf, 12kb)
Census of Marine Life Workshop Timetable (pdf, 25kb)
Abstracts (pdf, 813kb)


The conference organisers thank all registrants for their contribution to the 2005 AMSA conference. AMSA2005 Organising Committee and AMSA are very appreciative of the generous sponsorship of government, tertiary and industry. Without such sponsorship, AMSA could not maintain the levels of registration costs and student support (registration, functions, travel and prizes) that were extended to registrants of AMSA2005. Sponsor information.


AMSA2005 Report by Chairman

The Australian Marine Sciences Association Annual Conference was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Darwin from 11 th to 14th July 2005. Presentations focused on aspects of marine biodiversity, biotechnology and bio-security in Australia and elsewhere and brought together a dynamic mix of marine science.

The organisers this year had the good sense to strategically place a midwinter conference in the most tropical city in Australia, and the themes of the conference reflected the location of Darwin in the centre the Indo-Pacific bioregion, one of the most bio-diverse on the planet.

Our shared icebeaker, generously organised at Parliament House by the Australian Society of Fish Biology, was a friendly and pleasant start to the 2005 conference week for both ASFB and AMSA. We all recognise the importance of biodiversity, but the issue is made far more meaningful when we are able to share in a visualisation of the term. Many presentations used underwater video as a principal means to communicate results, reflecting the increasing sophistication of the technology used to access and quantify the physical and biological environments of the oceans. Of particular note were the images provided by the Seabed Biodiversity Project, a study that maps the seafloor habitats and life between the iconic coral reefs on the Great Barrier Reef.

Keynote Speakers


Dr Chris Battershill – Keynote speaker – Australian Institute of Marine Science, Dr Peter Doherty – Keynote speaker – Australian Institute of Marine Science, Dr Steve Widdicombe – Plymouth Marine Laboratory


Today, biosecurity does not just involve issues such as marine invasives, a topic ably examined in a number of seminars, but also recognises the direct impact that humans can have on marine ecosystems. A different form of ?bio-invasion? was outlined by Jenny Anderson of Coastwatch, who described publicly for the first time the extent of the threat posed by illegal fishing in Australia?s north. She showed that thousands of small vessels of Indonesian origin are now seen within Australia?s fishing zone each year, mostly targeting shark fin to supply Asian markets. As demand and profits grow, so too does the sophistication and size of the vessels, with crews now regularly visiting shorelines from the bottom of the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Kimberley. Coping with this problem will be a major challenge for any agency involved with the sustainability of marine environments of northern Australia.

Unfortunately, when considering the influence of humans on marine ecosystems, as the scope of the field of interest increases, so to does the size of the problem. Steve Widdicome of Plymouth Marine Laboratory gave an unsettling picture of the potential for increasing CO2 emissions to alter the chemistry of the world?s oceans. The influx of CO2 may lower pH, making the oceans more acidic with consequences for any animal or plant that requires calcification to survive. Steve?s plenary address showed that the impact of this change could be catastrophic, emphasising that the issues facing the world?s oceans are global in size and require a global response. Conferences such as AMSA2005 provide an excellent forum to educate and inform the marine science and management community so that we can in turn begin the process of communicating the issues involved to the wider community.


On a brighter note, two workshops vied for attention in the final day of the conference. In the first, a national biodiversity voyage proposal was developed within the Census of Marine Life program. This global network of researchers from more than 70 nations is a ten-year initiative to assess the diversity, distribution, and abundance of marine life in the oceans. The second workshop examined the physical, bio-geochemical and ecological functioning of estuarine systems in Australia, with a special emphasis on the nature of tropical estuarine systems.

Darwin is known for its relaxed atmosphere and the social events at the conference reflected this attitude. The poster session was a great success, as was the conference dinner at PeeWees restaurant on the harbour foreshore, where great food and wine were served under the starry skies of a warm dry season night. The five-piece band topped off the night, with nearly everyone dancing on the lawn to their great music right until the end when we were pushed onto buses to take us back to the city. The conference was capped off by a final bush tucker BBQ organised by ASFB for attendees of both conferences at the Deckchair Cinema – great food, followed by a screening of Jaws!

The sponsorship for AMSA2005 was overwhelming, and again enabled AMSA’s annual conference to provide support by way of reduced registration fees, prizes and travel subsidy to students. Sponsors ranged from local, state and federal government agencies, industry and universities. We were very pleased to receive such enthusiasm and encouragement for marine science from both the public and private sectors. Our sponsors included CSIRO Marine Research, The Australian Institute of Marine Science, Charles Darwin University, Department of Education, Sport and Territories, Department of Environment, National Heritage Trust National Oceans Office, Census of Marine Life, Alcan, Arafura Timor Sea Research Facility (ANU/AIMS), P&O Maritime Services, Queensland Sea Cucumber Association, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Such an event takes the work and dedication of many people, and the organizing committee would like to thank all who contributed to the success of our Darwin conference. Included in our particular thank you list are our keynote speakers, student judges, session chairs and of course, presenters and attendees all played a special role in the conference. I would particularly like to thank Jake Virtue who took time off from his helicopter flying training to come to Darwin specifically to organise our AV, and did a fantastic even flawless – job. Our student volunteers came from everywhere – Jodie Haig from Adelaide, Bronwyn Cumbo from Sydney, Kate Godber from Hobart and Sarah Bourke from Perth ? they made a great support team.

And, thank you Darwin, for being such a great conference destination!

Mark Meekan, Chair, AMSA2005


Impressions of the AMSA conference, Darwin, 2005

I arrived in Darwin on Sunday 10 July – a balmy tropical afternoon. It had been 20 years since I had last visited Darwin, of course it has changed a good deal but is still a great place and the ‘winter’ weather was glorious. After settling in at the Quest apartments (very comfortable), I strolled around the shopping mall and sea front, and then got ready for the opening function. The icebreaker and registration was a joint event with the Australian Society of Fish Biology. This was held at Parliament House, and the dress was Territory Rig (for gentlemen this was supposed to be long trousers, long sleeve shirt and tie; for ladies this meant day dress/after five). The Hon. Kon Vatskalis, Minister for Primary Industries gave a very welcoming address. This function was a very pleasant opportunity, over drinks and delicious canapés in an impressively spacious venue, to catch up with colleagues from AMSA and ASFB, and to meet new people associated with the two societies.

The Conference venue  the Crowne Plaza Hotel – was also excellent, with good conference facilities and catering, and lots of space to look at display booths and posters, and mingle with conference delegates. At the first session, Honorary Life Memberships were awarded to Frank Talbot (I have known Frank through Great Barrier Reef research since the 1970s), and Ian Brown (a more recent colleague from DPI&F, who is involved in some key research on survival of line-caught reef fish) Great and loyal supporters of AMSA! Gina Newton also announced that the recipient of the AMSA Silver Jubilee Award 2005 was Professor June Olley of the University of Tasmania. Given her awesome record and dedication to marine science, this was a moving event, even though Prof. Olley wasn’t able to be present at the conference.

All of the plenary talks were full of interesting information and provided first class overviews of marine research and/or management topics. For me, the highlight of the plenary sessions was UK-based marine scientist Steve Widdicombe from the Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Steve’s presentation gave us a picture ? complementing equally fascinating and disturbing talks I have heard from colleagues such as Ove Hoegh-Guldberg – about the likely impacts of global warming and ocean acidification etc. on marine environments. Something for everyone, not just marine scientists, to be concerned about.

I attended a wide range of interesting sessions. My attendance reflecting my varied interests and my role as a judge for student prizes – there were many interesting themes and papers on offer relevant to marine and estuarine science and management. One paper I found especially fascintating, and right outstide my area of expertise, was the presentation from Corey Bradshaw of Charles Darwin University and co-authors about evolutionary constraints of extreme diving in marine in vertebrates. This brought together information from marine animals with very different phylogenies (southern elephant seals, emperor penguins, leatherback turtles) and involved some fascinating analysis (NB the abstract was distributed later so it isn?t in the bound program booklet).

I had the pleasure of chairing a session on the Wednesday afternoon dealing with marine protected areas and other marine environment/ecology issues. I had intended my own presentation on fisheries and marine protected areas to provide information and food for thought for marine science, however my audience was mainly comprised of officers from marine parks and marine planning agencies (thank you for your interest!), but few hard-core scientists – perhaps they succumbed to the attractions of concurrent conference sessions or the Census of Marine Life workshop.


Peewees Restaurant – conference dinner The conference dinner at PeeWees restaurant was excellent. Beachside surroundings, beaut weather, good company, lots of wine, and delicious seafood were a great recipe for a splendid evening. I was really impressed by how good the service and catering were, considering the substantial size of our party.

My role as one of the judges for the student prizes was not an easy one, given the many high quality student presentations. It was excellent that so many people filled the auditorium for these awards, despite the fact the conference was coming to a close. For me the most special prizes were the Ron Kenny Awards. Ron was a foundation member of AMSA and Bulletin editor for many years, and I had got to know him in the late 1970s whilst doing a PhD at James Cook University. Ron was also a very accomplished artist and I?m proud to have a Ron Kenny painting in my living room. (Rumour has it that Alan Dartnall and Chris Alexander, both now adjuncts in biological sciences at JCU, are compiling a short biography of Ron Kenny to help keep the younger generation of marine scientists informed about Ron and his many achievements).

The visit to newly opened Arafura and Timor Sea Research Centre lab was a worthwhile extra to the program and another good opportunity for networking with colleagues. After that we proceeded by bus to another joint event with the ASFB folks, at the deckchair cinema. By Day Four and some late nights, I had run out of steam and decided not to stay for the BBQ dinner and movie. So I gratefully accepted a lift and opportunity to dine at a quiet restaurant with some Townsville colleagues.

I was also pleased to have caught up with Phil Alderslade, a colleague from my coral/octocoral research days, and his wife Anne. En route to the airport, I was able to catch up with Phil at the NT Museum and Art Gallery which hosts, inter alia, interesting marine biological collections and displays, magnificent indigenous art works, and a maritime display with fine examples of Asian and Pacific vessels. I came away from Darwin with improved knowledge of recent marine science research, benefits of networking with marine science/management colleagues, a stunning bark painting from the Maningrida art shop, and beautiful fabrics from Anne Alderslade?s fabrics and crafts enterprise.

My thanks to Narelle Hall, Mark Meekan and all those who worked so hard to make this such a successful conference; to all those who contributed through their papers and their participation; and to the Qld Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries for supporting my attendance.
Zena Dinesen, AMSA Councillor


Student Report of AMSA Conference 2005

Nourlangie Rock – in Kakadu.
My name is Karen Lee, a MSc research student studying at University of New South Wales. I am originated from Hong Kong and it is my first time to present in a conference. Although I was very nervous in my presentation, I had a great time in the conference and met a lot of people. As an overseas student, it is a really good experience for me to explore different kinds of research going on in Australia.
I still remember one of the students who brought the experimental apparatus that he used for his PhD project all the way to Darwin and introduced to the people at the airport (otherwise the staff would not let him go). Finally, he got up to Darwin safely and gave a very impressive presentation. It is very amazing to see how enthusiastic the marine scientists are to their work.

The AMSA Conference offers me a great opportunity to improve my presentation skills and most importantly, to share my work with other marine scientists. I really enjoyed the question and answer session. Those questions inspired me to think about what kinds of work that I could do in the future and how to improve the experimental designs.

I highly recommend this conference to my colleagues and fellow students.


Karen Lee, MSc Student, University of New South Wales